Last year, long-running metal super-group Down released the first of a sprawling four-part EP series. Aptly titled IV, the releases — the rest of which come in 2013 or later — are meant to comprise a massive new album, and the first takes the band’s Black Sabbath influences to a rawer and darker place.
Singer, songwriting contributor, and former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo — who teams with members of Corrosion of Conformity, Eyehategod, and Crowbar in Down — joined us to talk about soaring vocals, his home studio, and that unapologetic Sabbath influence.
You recorded your new material at Nodferatu’s Lair, your home studio. What did you use for reference mixes on the first EP?
I always will reference one of my newer records with something classic and something modern just for kicks. Honestly, I can’t remember what modern record we A/B’d it with. But I always go back to Black Sabbath records. There’s always the re-mastered Black Sabbath records that are louder. I would always bounce back on Sabotage.
I was going to ask you about Black Sabbath. To me, Down sounds like an extension of the song “Supernaut.”
Ha! Well, you know, that’s not very far off the fucking mark. Obviously, we’re influenced by Black Sabbath. I also say that we’re influenced by the bands that were influenced by Black Sabbath, like Trouble, Witchfinder General, Saint Vitus — all that shit! But really, in the end, it’s all fucking Black Sabbath. Take a song like “Stone the Crow” and maybe you can see a little Lynyrd Skynyrd here and there, but really, we’re a lot more Black Sabbath than we are any fucking thing. I can’t disagree with your assessment there, young man.
The new material sounds a little darker — more like Trouble and less Southern. Was that on purpose?
I know for a fact that when we went in there and wrote these songs, I wanted them to be as described. I wanted it to be raw. Definitely true to its presentation…in that it sounds like what we sound like live. It is a dark-sounding thing live, because we wiggle completely out of key and shit like that.
The mindset was to be as raw as possible and to not overanalyze the songs. Once we got onto something and there were three parts to it, walk the fuck away from it, you know? When it came down to doing vocals…really, this was the least amount of time I’ve taken. I didn’t overtax myself at all thinking or worrying about how the songs are going to be. I approached it like I did the first demo. I didn’t have a bunch of material before the first demo; it was just an idea. That’s how I approached [the new material].
Are the songs an extension of jam sessions?
Well, it’s collaborative. It’s funny that you mention “extension” and “jam session” in the same sentence when you’re talking about Down, because we’re the worst band in the world at ending a song. We get on that last fucking riff and no one can fucking stop. I have to scream at ’em.
The vocals seem to be the most ’70s you’ve sounded since Cowboys from Hell, when you had straight-up Rob Halford parts.
Dude, I swear that I approached singing this thing a few different ways. Two of the songs we had demoed back in like 2006, when I was singing a whole lot more and was into…different shit, I guess. We had demoed the songs, and my voice was just soaring, and there were really a lot of higher parts. I tried several different ways — without killing myself, mind you — but it just kept coming out the same fucking way. It’s all that would come out of me. I could have had any date in my head as far as what I was aiming for, and it would have come out the same way. To a point, it was a little fucking frustrating and a little comedic.
Some things are just meant to be.
I guess! Believe me, I gave it the ol’ high-school-dropout try.